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A Rapid Prototyping Application In Wind Tunnel Testing A Student Project

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

ET Student Design Teams

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.98.1 - 7.98.6



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Paper Authors

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Robert Edwards

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David Forsman

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Main Menu Session 3550

A Rapid Prototyping Application in Wind Tunnel Testing – A Student Project

Robert Edwards, David Forsman The Pennsylvania State University at Erie


3D printing is a rapid prototyping process which creates a part layer by layer by spraying a binder into a bed of powder. This process is used in industry to produce concept models for marketing, fit, form and function models, as well as patterns for molds. A team of Mechanical Engineering Technology students at Penn State Erie, working on a senior project to test the down force on a late model dirt stock car, has integrated the use of rapid prototyping into their project in an innovative way. The project called for the students to build a model of the car, and to conduct wind tunnel tests to determine the down force that is generated. This student team decided to use the 3D printed prototype directly in a wind tunnel, since it appeared to be a quick, relatively inexpensive method for providing test results. Several problems arose during the design and manufacture of the model. One of the main concerns was the strength of the part, since the model contains several thin sections which would have to both survive the build process and withstand the force of the wind. Other issues included the amount of detail needed in the model, model size, and design of the model to allow for simple, economic changes. This paper reports on these issues, and how they were resolved.

I. Introduction:

At Penn State Erie, Mechanical Engineering Technology Students are required to complete a project during their senior year. This project is typically sponsored by a local industry, and is designed to teach the students how the design and development process works. Typically, the students are required to manage the entire project from the planning and scheduling stage through design, analysis, and final report.

Occasionally, a project comes along which is not sponsored by a local industry, but by an individual who has an interest in helping the school and the students. One such project was proposed by a former student who races late model dirt track stock cars as a hobby. These cars race on small oval dirt tracks at fairly high speed. One of the important factors in being able to maintain a high speed on the curves is the amount of down force on the car. It is very difficult for a hobbyist to compete with a heavily sponsored vehicle, and so this project gave the students an opportunity to provide some valuable information to the sponsor, and to learn a little about rapid prototyping and wind tunnels in the process.

The specific goal of this project was to devise a method for evaluating the effects of design changes to the car on down force. It was not critical to determine accurate force magnitude information, but was more important to be able to assess whether a design change would have a positive affect. The primary focus of the project was to obtain a baseline for the existing design. Possible design changes were to be evaluated if time permitted.

“Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

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Edwards, R., & Forsman, D. (2002, June), A Rapid Prototyping Application In Wind Tunnel Testing A Student Project Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10134

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